One by one, with Dustin Johnson chief among them, players made a bid to take charge at the first major championship of the year only to run afoul of the winds that gusted around the treacherous back nine of the Augusta National Golf Club.
Day was one of many who had a major stumble, hitting his tee shot into the water at the famous par-3 12th. He salvaged a bogey on that hole, however, and eventually shot a 4-under 68 that put him alone at the top with a 36-hole total of 6-under 138.
Day came close to winning this tournament two years ago and is trying to become the first Australian in the event's 77-year history to receive the green jacket that goes to the Masters winner.
Another Australian, first-round co-leader Marc Leishman, shared second place at 139 following a round of 73. He was tied with 53-year-old Fred Couples, trying to make golfing history by becoming the oldest player to win a major title.
Couples played early in the day and ground his way to a 71 before the afternoon winds became a factor by moving in on the heels of overnight rains.
Tied for third 140 were Brandt Snedeker, Jim Furyk and Angel Cabrera, who birdied five of the last six holes to shoot a 68. Cabrera has won 29 tournaments around the world, but has only two victories in the United States. Both of those have been major titles, the 2007 U.S. Open and the 2009 Masters.
Woods was part of a four-way tie for the lead when he came to the par-5 15th, normally a birdie hole but playing directly into the wind on Friday.
After a poor drive Woods laid up short of the pond that sits in front of the green. He hit his third shot just the way he wanted and quickly shielded his eyes from the setting sun to see the result.
"I thought it was good," he said.
Had the ball landed 2 inches either right or left, it would have likely spun to a stop and left him with a short birdie putt. Instead, it slammed into the base of the flagstick and bounced back into the water.
Woods managed to make a bogey on the hole, but he also bogeyed the 18th and shot a 71. It was one of many tales of woe endured by some of the top names in the game.
Johnson had a two-shot lead when he came to the 15th, but he also hit his third shot in the water, made a double bogey and wound up playing the final four holes in 5-over to shoot a 76 for a 143 total.
Furyk suffered a double bogey at the 15th as well to drop out of a tie for the top spot, Scott made three straight bogeys on the front nine that robbed him of momentum and Matt Kuchar saw a promising start fall apart en route to a 76 that left him at 143.
Guan Tianling, the youngest competitor in Masters history at age 14, suffered a different kind of disappointment -- receiving a one-shot penalty for slow play. He told rules officials the swirling wind made it difficult for him to decide what clubs to hit, but he was warned at the 13th hole that he was taking too much time to hit the ball and was eventually assessed a penalty at the 17th.
Guan made the cut, however, by finishing within 10 shots of the leader at 4-over 148. Defending champion Bubba Watson also wound up at 148 and will play on the weekend.
Rory McIlroy, ranked second in the world behind Woods, came to life on the back nine and his 70 left him at 2-under 142. He shared that number with first-round co-leader Sergio Garcia and 55-year-old Bernhard Langer, a two-time winner of the Masters.